7 Days: The Straight Dope From the Week That Was
by Geoff Kelly
Thursday, January 21
At tonight’s monthly meeting of the Frontier Democrats at J.P. Bullfeather’s, North District Councilman Joe Golombek stumped for one of his favorite ideas: ditching Buffalo’s strong mayor system of government and installing a nonpartisan, professional city manager hired by the Common Council and certified by the International City/County Management Association. The city manager would run the day-to-day operations of the city: budgeting, hiring, firing, performance analysis and optimization, etc. A citywide-elected mayor would fill a largely ceremonial role. The citywide-elected city comptroller would continue to monitor government spending and procedures. And the Common Council would set the agenda.
The idea, Golombek told the political club, is to isolate personnel practices and the execution of city services from the vagaries of political wrangling. Police would be deployed where they are needed most, not preferentially to districts that produce high voter turnouts. Capital expenditures would be directed where they’re need, according to a master plan, not as political favors to friendly legislators and contractors. Golombek’s proposal may seem a radical idea, but it’s not: Nearly half of US municipalities larger than 2,500 people use some form of city manager/council government.
Golombek admits the idea is not popular in political circles—certainly not with his friend, Mayor Byron Brown. “Opposition clear across the board,” Golombek says. “People are opposed to this, and I believe it’s because people lose power”—the power to give jobs, to direct contracts, to subvert good governance to political considerations. If so many in our dysfunctional City Hall are opposed to the idea, it must bear examining.
Meantime, up the street at Buffalo State College, Assemblyman Sam Hoyt—who Golombek may challenge this fall—held a town hall meeting on the governor’s proposed budget, which debuted to Bronx cheers across the state early last week. Though sparsely attended, the discussion was well informed. Among the most interesting subjects was that raised by David Bradley of North Buffalo, who urged Hoyt to pursue passage of a renewable energy feed-in tariff similar to that imposed in Ontario. A feed-in tariff requires utilities to buy power from small and medium renewable energy generators—those harnessing solar or wind power—at a fixed price. Feed-in tariffs create an economic rationale for the development of green energy infrastructure, which in turn creates jobs, and the cost of the investment is spread around to all ratepayers. Making Bradley’s point for him was an announcement that very same day that a Korean consortium will invest $7 billion (Canadian) in wind and solar power facilities in Ontario, generating 2,500 megawatts of electricity and creating thousands of jobs. The reason the Koreans are willing to invest: Ontario’s energy policy guarantees a market for power generated from renewable sources.
Friday, January 22
At a town hall meeting called by members of the city’s LGBT community at Babeville, DA Frank Sedita and other officials assured those attending that Lindsay Harmon’s attacker, who confessed the day before to stabbing Harmon outside Roxy’s on New Year’s Eve, was likely to be charged with a hate crime. (Harmon is a lesbian.) But many folks there expressed doubt that law enforcement would ever be capable of addressing gay-bashing. “If you don’t have police that are sensitive and trained to recognize what this is or ask the appropriate questions, and or collect the appropriate evidence, you’re talking about a fairyland scenario. It will never happen,” said Paul Morgan.
Saturday, January 23
Sunday, January 24
Former Tennesse Congressman Harold Ford passed through town today, taking in a church service at Greater Refuge Temple, gladhanding at Gigi’s, taking lunch with Mayor Byron Brown at the Buffalo Chophouse (a meeting Ford’s people shoehorned in to the itinerary on Friday night), and finally a talk with Erie County Democratic Chairman Len Lenihan. Ford is contemplating a primary challenge to US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
Monday, January 25:
Dueling protests of the week: About 400 environmentalists gathered in Albany’s West Capitol Park to protest proposals to drill into the state’s Marcellus Shale beds for natural gas, while 300 advocates for drilling gathered a half mile away in Lafayette Park. The drilling involves a process called hydrofracking—injecting up to six million gallons of water per gas well mixed with sand and toxic chemical additives at high pressures to release the gas. Environmentalists say the process pollutes neighboring waterways and wells.
Tuesday, January 26
Chris Collins announces he won’t run for governor. The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation reveals it general project plan at a public hearing at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Price tag for the plan: $294 million, including $140 million in hoped-for private investment. Last month’s refinancing of the licensing deal with the New York Power Authority accounts for the majority of the public subsidy. ECHDC hopes to complete the State Environmental Quality Review Act process by March. In regard to a deal with Bass Pro, ECHDC President Tom Dee said, “We’re having phone conversations and face to face meetings and everything is moving to the pace that it can move.” Sigh.
Wednesday, January 27
Rod McCallum of Queen City Farm (www.queencityfarm.org) reports that the abandoned house at 194 East Utica that he’d hoped to acquire as the headquarters of his urban farm project burned down in the night. It is the sixth house on McCallum’s block to burn in the two years he’s lived there.blog comments powered by Disqus
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